Warm weather could increase illegal border crossings in Canada

Officials in Canada braced for another spike in illegal border crossings

Border officials are preparing for another spike in asylum seekers coming illegally into Canada from the U.S. as the weather gets warmer.

The RCMP intercepted more than 3,000 irregular border-crossers in January and February, part of a total number of 7,800 asylum seekers processed by the federal immigration department and the Canada Border Services Agency during the same time period.

RELATED: Senators fear legal pot will hike number of Canadians barred entry to U.S.

Those figures don’t include more than 600 additional arrivals who entered the country illegally through Quebec over the Easter weekend.

Officials are expecting those numbers to continue to grow as temperatures rise. Immigration and CBSA officials have been preparing for the influx after getting caught flat-footed last summer dealing with an unexpected surge in mainly Haitian migrants entering Canada through Ontario and Quebec.

“Canada is an open and welcoming country to those in need of protection, but our government is committed to orderly migration to protect Canadians and our immigration system. Our government is prepared for any future fluctuations,” said Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Many of the most recent migrants crossing illegally into Canada are Nigerian, which suggests word-of-mouth about Canada as a safe haven for asylum seekers has continued to spread despite Canadian efforts to counter it. A number of Liberal MPs headed south last year in an effort to warn would-be travellers against making the trip.

In any event, if more migrants continue to arrive, border officials will be ready, Genest said Friday. “We have worked with various departments, provinces and settlement organizations to develop a national operations plan to manage possible scenarios at the border.”

The Liberal government has also committed $74 million to help address lengthy backlogs in processing refugee claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board. The department has also cut work-permit wait times for asylum seekers from three months to three weeks and issued more than 12,000 work permits to asylum seekers in Quebec.

RELATED: Trump directs troops deployed to border

But the Canadian Council for Refugees says it is concerned about vulnerable migrants being exploited by scammers who offer to help them cross the border for a hefty fee.

“People pay up large amounts of money, get to Canada, find out that they’re making a refugee claim … and find out they’ve been lied to by the scammers,” said executive director Janet Dench. “That sort of thing happens quite regularly.”

The council has been calling for the government to suspend the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been cited as a major factor in the spike of irregular border crossings.

The agreement makes it impossible for would-be refugees arriving from the U.S. to claim asylum at an official port of entry to Canada. They can only make such a claim from inside the country, prompting thousands to make the crossing on foot through unofficial entry points.

Suspending the agreement would all but eliminate irregular crossings and make migrant refugees less vulnerable to scammers, Dench said.

“There’s this whole charade that people have to go through in order to make a claim in Canada, which would be completely unnecessary if Canada would simply say, ‘We will suspend the safe third country agreement,’ and then people could apply in a regular way.”

But the government has made it clear no such changes will be forthcoming.

“The safe third country agreement is an important tool used by Canada and the U.S. to co-operate on the orderly handling of refugee claims. It is a vital component of our well-managed immigration system,” Genest said.

Last year, more than 50,000 asylum claims were processed by immigration and CBSA, more than twice the number processed every year prior since 2011.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Summer from hell’: vandals rob community garden following devastating wildfire season

The community rallied to keep the Health Minds Community Garden open in Fort St. James

College of New Caledonia offers new automotive glass technician program

The program is offered mainly online, allowing more students to take part from across the north

Decision on Burns Lake’s workforce camp “pending very soon”: Coastal GasLink

Meetings to discuss new camp location postponed due to wildfire situation

B.C. parents leery of HPV cervical cancer vaccine

Provincial registration uptake among lowest in Canada

Municipal spending outpaces population growth 4-fold in B.C.: report

Canadian Federation of Independent Business has released its annual operational spending report

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

B.C. man who left hospice to run in upcoming election dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Most Read